Posted tagged ‘Contemporary India’

India and Hindi Portfolio, 2009-2013. Brian Steel

22 May 2013

Updated February  2016

In 2009, Australia was not aware that it needed my assistance. Neither was I. In 2012, however, the government discovered that it has almost half a million Indian citizens and visiting students and, logically if belatedly, it has been trying to encourage its educational establishments and suitable citizens to take up the study of Hindi in order to contribute to the faster growth of existing Indo-Australian links and trade.

Since some of my private Internet contributions relate to both the tenacious study of Hindi by one Australian (myself) and the recent portrayal of India in foreign media and books, I shyly reveal this brief portfolio of offerings to date.

Now, what about a retrospective study grant?
*

INDIA

2010 October
Background Reading on Contemporary India
https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/background-reading-on-contemporary-india/

2010 November
Contemporary India. 1. Basic Sources of Information
https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/contemporary-india-1-basic-sources-of-information/
and
Contemporary India. 1a. Basic Sources of Information. Catherine Taylor’s Possible Sequel to Sarah Macdonald’s Interpretation of India
https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/contemporary-india-1a-basic-sources-of-information-catherine-taylor%E2%80%99s-possible-sequel-to-sarah-macdonald%E2%80%99s-interpretation-of-india/

2011 January
Contemporary India. Basic Sources of Information. 2. New Books by Patrick French and Anand Giridharadas
https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/contemporary-india-basic-sources-of-information-2-new-books-by-patrick-french-and-anand-giridharadas/

2011 August
An Unofficial Analysis of India’s Current Problems
https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/an-unofficial-analysis-of-india%E2%80%99s-current-problems/

2011 December
The Australian’s interest in Contemporary India. Part 1
https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/the-australians-interest-in-contemporary-india-part-1/

2012 February
The Australian’s Interest in Contemporary India. Part 2
https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/the-australians-interest-in-contemporary-india-part-2/

2013 March
The Indian Investigative Magazine Tehelka and its Hindi Version

https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/the-indian-investigative-magazine-tehelka-and-its-hindi-version/
*

HINDI

2010 August
Translation 22. Cultural Content of Given Names. The Case of Hindi
https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2010/08/30/translation-22-cultural-content-of-given-names-the-case-of-hindi/

2011 January
Translation 26. An Online Hindi & Urdu Glossary of Bollywood films by Volker Schuermann
https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/translation-26-an-online-hindi-urdu-glossary-of-bollywood-films-by-volker-schuermann/

2011 August
Basic Hindi Vocabulary for English-Speaking Learners
http://www.briansteel.net/writings/basichindi1.htm

and a shorter version, August 2011:
Basic Hindi Vocabulary for Lucky English-speaking Learners
https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/basic-hindi-vocabulary-for-lucky-english-speaking-learners/

2011 December
Hindi Acronyms are based on English phonetics
https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/hindi-acronyms-are-based-on-english-phonetics/

2012 June
Translation 36. Free Internet Translation Software: The Contest between Google Translate and Microsoft’s BING Translator. Russian and Hindi
https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/translation-36-free-internet-translation-software-the-contest-between-google-translate-and-microsofts-bing-translator-russian-and-hindi/

2012 September
Translation 37. Arvind and Kusum Kumar’s magnum opus: the Bilingual Hindi and English Thesaurus
https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/translation-37-arvind-and-kusum-kumars-magnum-opus-the-bilingual-hindi-and-english-thesaurus/

2012 October
Translation 38. Hindi Learning Shortcuts. Introduction to a New Series
https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/translation-38-hindi-learning-shortcuts-introduction-to-a-new-series/

and
http://www.briansteel.net/writings/india/index.html
“This new web page reflects the course of my broadening interest in contemporary India as a whole and in one of its major languages, Hindi.”
In October 2012 I have finally felt able to begin to post a series of articles on the Hindi language based on my (determined) 4-year struggle to add Hindi to the list of languages that I can comprehend. I am now comprehending, but still quite slowly!
It is my hope that the series, Hindi Learning Hints, may be of some use to fellow foreign learners of Hindi, in particular to those for whom English is a native or major language. I hope that those who are further advanced in this process than myself, as well as any Hindi-speakers who may chance to see these articles, may be able to favour me with their corrections of my misunderstandings and errors, preferably at ompukalani@hotmail.com ”

2012 November
Hindi Learning Hints. 1. The Versatile vaalaa Suffix (Introduction)
http://www.briansteel.net/writings/india/hindi1_vaalaa.htm

and
Translation 39. A Short Reference List for Hindi learners & Notes on the suffix vaalaa / ‘wallah’
https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/translation-39-a-short-reference-list-for-hindi-learners-notes-on-the-suffix-vaalaa-wallah/

2013 January
Translation 40. Hindi-English-Hinglish, an Indian ménage à trois
https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/translation-40-hindi-english-hinglish-an-indian-menage-a-trois/
and
Translation 41. Hindi Learning Hints 4. English Loanwords in Contemporary Hindi
https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/translation-41-hindi-learning-hints-4-english-loanwords-in-contemporary-hindi/

2013 May
Handy Hindi Hints. 2. Selected Prefixes and Other Word Formation Elements
[First Draft]
http://www.briansteel.net/writings/india/hindi2_prefixes.pdf

Translation 42. Learner’s Guide to Hindi Prefixes and word formation. Introduction
https://briansteel.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/translation-42-learners-guide-to-hindi-prefixes-and-word-formation-introduction/

* Update:
Handy Hindi Hints. 3. Hindi Suffixes and Word Formation [June 2013]
http://briansteel.net/writings/india/bsteelhindi3_suffixes.pdf
Hindi Learning Hints 4. 2,500 English Loanwords in Contemporary Hindi [Unpublished Draft]

Hindi Learning Hints 5. Postpositions
(108+ Hindi Postpositions. A Comprehensive List for HSL Students. Draft.’)
http://briansteel.net/writings/india/bsteelhindi5_postpositions.pdf
[December 2013]

Update. February 2016:

30 April 2014  Linguistic Glimpses of the 2014 Indian General Elections Through English Loanwords in Hindi

23 December 2014 Translation 49. French Loanwords in English. Pronunciation Guide for Hindi Speakers. Introduction

27 March 2015  Translation 51. Arvind Kumar’s Word Power in English

21 February 2016. Book: English Loanwords, Abbreviations, and Acronyms in Hindi. A Romanised Guide to Hindi Media Usage.

and

Translation 53. English Loanwords in Hindi. Lexical References.

 

 

 

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The Indian Investigative Magazine Tehelka and its Hindi Version

31 March 2013

As English-speaking businessmen, tourists and spiritual seekers would all agree, one of the special advantages of going to India is that you don’t need to learn one or more foreign languages because they “all” speak, write and communicate in perfect English, whether in the (predominantly Hindi) North or the Dravidian South. Some foreign journalists might agree, although it is likely that those whose reports are most valued overseas have learnt a relevant Indian language, especially Hindi or Tamil. (Like Mark Tully, Edward Luce, Kris Kremmer, Patrick French, etc.)

For English-speaking foreign journalists, one of the most valuable sources of information on life in contemporary India is the highly independent investigative magazine Tehelka, whose dramatic 12-year history of sensational début and (persecuted) decline, followed by a slow but determined and vigorous revival (now including a thriving website) is well documented.

According to several Hindi dictionaries, Tehelka ( तहलका Ta-hal-kaa ) carries semantic content involving sensation, commotion, hubbub or hullabaloo. Tehelka itself clarifies the matter for us by quoting Time Magazine’s absolutely admirable definition:

“Tehelka is a delightful Urdu word, difficult to translate. It refers to that special kind of tumult provoked by a daring act, or a sensational piece of writing.”

Although this forthright intention nearly caused its early demise, the magazine has certainly lived up to its name and orientation, both the inspired creations of Tarun J. Tejpal. The current Internet motto is: “Free. Fair. Fearless”.

On its website Tehelka describes itself thus:
“On January 31, 2004, after more than two years of persecution, Tehelka was reborn as a weekly newspaper committed to constructive, crusading journalism. As a people’s paper geared to take a stand, to follow the hard investigative story. A fearless paper ready to create opinion, and not just remain a passive vehicle of news.
Over the years, Tehelka has firmly established itself as a people’s media choice. With public interest journalism, serious opinion and analysis, Tehelka has earned unmatched credibility and brand recall.”
(More of Tehelka’s amazing inside story is available from its Editor-in-Chief, Shoma Chaudhury, on http://archive.tehelka.com)

Independent writers also confirm and flesh out the Tehelka saga.

Mira Kamdar presents the “Tehelka Tapes” story in Planet India. The Turbulent Rise of the World’s Largest Democracy (Simon and Schuster, 2007,pp. 93-94):
“In March 2001, the fledgling weekly Tehelka rocked the nation when it released tapes secretly made by two of its reporters, Aniruddha Bahal and Mathew Samuel, showing bribes being taken in the ministry of defence at the highest level of the Indian Government.”

Kamdar also describes the retaliation by authorities intent on punishing Tehelka and its staff for the embarrassment caused and she notes the courageous resistance by the editors and reporters. As a result of government action, Tehelka’s staff was reduced from 120 to 4, and their main financial backer, Sharma Mehra, was prosecuted. Kamdar adds the encouraging happy ending by explaining that finally, through sheer determination, and backing from media personalities and others, the editor Tarun Tejpal [and his managing editor, Shoma Chaudhury] managed to reopen the paper in 2004. As a result, of strong support, the printed editions sell well and “The online edition reaches readers around the world. The paper continues to conduct sting operations, exposing corruption at every turn [ …].”

In his acclaimed 2011 study, India. An Intimate Biography of 1.2 Billion People, (London Allen Lane, 2011), Patrick French offers more background on Tehelka as well as specific quotations from the original sensational “Tapes”. In his chapter on wealth, business, politics and corruption in contemporary India, French makes the point that since 2000 the transparency factor has played an increasingly important role in Indian journalism and life:

“One of the strongest weapons against corruption was transparency – or a fear of being caught. Taking bribes was now becoming annoyingly difficult for senior bureaucrats and politicians, such was the fear of spy cameras. The 2005 “Right to Information Act”, combined with the new media’s love of spying and bugging, appeared to be undermining certain types of graft.” The author goes on to give three pages of details about the hazardous Tehelka undercover sting of 2001, involving politicians, military officers and bureaucrats, claiming that this was the incident which “sparked this shift, catching and shaming people for the sort of behaviour that had always been rumoured but never so graphically demonstrated” (p. 217). Be that as it may, after a long quote from the secretly taped Tehelka investigation, Patrick French adds that although the Defence Minister was forced to resign, “the most outrageous thing about this exposé was not the corruption […] but the state’s response to the dishonesty. The prosecution of those involved was half-hearted, and much more effort was devoted to prosecuting Tehelka, which was nearly destroyed by repeated investigations and court cases […]” (p. 219).

So much for the “known knowns” about Tehelka. Less well known outside India, presumably because a (difficult) foreign language is involved, is the fact that since 2008, Tehelka has also published a Hindi version. However, unless you peruse the issues (or at least the Contents pages, you may not realise that Tehelka in Hindi contains much information not printed in its English version. Some of this extra information really needs to be more widely studied and reported on by foreign India watchers, because it is also the fruit of Tehelka’s ongoing commitment to revealing information which the public deserves to know. Another reason for foreign journalists to follow “Tehelka in Hindi” is that writing sensational reports in Hindi is likely to attract less official attention than writing them in English. Yet another positive factor is that India is not yet showing any signs of a decline in newspaper and magazine sales.

To justify my main assertion that a knowledge of Hindi is essential for foreign journalists, I propose to refer to 3 articles published in “Tehelka in Hindi” (www.tehelkahindi.com) in December 2012 and January and February 2013. I am grateful to my translator colleague Suyash Suprabh for supplying me with these valuable copies of Tehelka.

1. The cover of Tehelka (Hindi) for 31 December 2012 announces the 12-page updated investigation by Brijesh Singh of the decades-long and hitherto intractable question of refugees in Kashmir (pp. 42-53):
Kashmeer kee sautelee saantaaneN (Kashmir’s Step-children)

Tehelka Kashmir Cover

Jammoo: Refugee Capital

2 lakhs [200,000]
Refugees from West Pakistan

10 lakhs [1 million]
Refugees from Pakistan-administered Kashmir

2 lakhs [200,000]
Displaced by the war with Pakistan

3 lakhs [300,000]
Pundits from the Valley of Kashmir

(To my knowledge this article by Mr Singh has not appeared in the English version of Tehelka and although I am aware of an Internet translation, I am not willing to share the URL until I am satisfied it is duly authorised.)

2.
Following the horrendous gang rape in Delhi, the Tehelka Hindi issue for 31 December 2012- 15 January 2013 was devoted to Women’s Issues, including a short article on the positive history of Women’s Movements in India by Priyanka Dubey, Hauslon kaa haasil (‘Courageous Achievements’), in which she makes the point that, in view of their involvement in the decades of struggle for Independence, they were well placed to continue the fight after Independence in 1947.

3.
The cover of Tehelka Hindi for 28 February 2013 announces a long article, by a retired politician, Arif Mohammad Khan, on another sensitive subject. The title given there seems to be ‘Isn’t there any room for change or modernisation in Islam?’ (‘Kyaa islaam meN badlaav aur aadhuniktaa ke lie kaaee sthaan nahee hai?’) The article itself (pp. 36-41), however, has a revised title: ‘Is there any Scope for Change and Reform in Islam?’ Where sudhaaroN (reforms) and gunjaaish (scope) have replaced aadhuniktaa (modernisation) and sthaan (place / room) and the rhetorical negative has been deleted.
(For this article by Mr Khan there is an English translation available on the Tehelka website, dated 7 March.)

Footnote:
The latest Tehelka sting operation in December 2012-January 2013 involved taping conversations by senior Indian police officials. These contradicted official statements on tightening up on attitudes to reported rapes and the way of investigating them.
See http://tehelka.com/video/tehelka-sting-expose-the-rapes-will-go-on/

Favourites on this Blog – for Holiday Reading

27 December 2011

Of the one hundred and eleven blogs posted here since 2008, these are the 16 that have attracted most attention. Unlike other more ephemeral blogs, the subject matter seems to remain of interest.

With my good wishes for the New Year.

General
1.
New Hope for Disempowered Women

2.
‘The Fragmentation of Information in Wikipedia’

3.
‘Please dress up the Em dash’

4.
‘Global warming debate. 1’

5.
‘Global warming debate. 2’
‘Global Warming Controversy. Part 2. Global Warming Scepticism: Some Basic Data & Chronological Notes’

6.
‘Julia Owen and bee stings in Bromley’

7.
‘Julia Owen, Retinitis Pigmentosa, and the Media. Part 1’
(Part 2 will follow in the New Year.)

Languages

1.
Of 33 offerings on Translation and Interpreting topics, this item has captured most attention:
‘Translation 8. Fluency in foreign languages. The case of Dr Condoleezza Rice’
(See also ‘Translation. 30’.)

2.
‘Translation 32. David Bellos’s Revealing Book on Translation and the Meaning of Everything’

3.
‘Spanish Pronunciation in the Media’

Spain

1.
‘The European Union’s verdict on the Franco Régime in Spain (1939-1975)’

2.
‘Justo Gallego – the lone twentieth century Cathedral Builder’

India

1.
‘Contemporary India. 1. Basic Sources of Information’

2.
‘A Visit to Sathya Sai Baba’s ashram in October 2008’

3.
‘Sathya Sai Baba: Questionable Stories and Claims. Part 1’

4.
‘Fuzzy Dates in the Official Biography of Sathya Sai Baba. A Re-examination’

Contemporary India. Basic Sources of Information. 2. New Books by Patrick French and Anand Giridharadas.

31 January 2011

Two more very recent valuable contributions to a wider understanding of contemporary India are briefly outlined and recommended below.

1.
Anand Giridharadas, India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking, Times Books, USA [and Black Inc, Australia], 2011. ISBN 9781863955164

This is a valuable book by the son of Indian immigrants to USA. Giridharadas relates how the incomparable combination of an Indian background, frequent visits to India, and a thoroughly American upbringing and education led to his appointment as the first Bombay correspondent for the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune between 2005 and 2009.

India Calling presents the fruits of his keen observation, insight and analysis of Indian realities and the changes that have been happening for the past two decades.

Proof of Giridharadas’s originality and the importance and intimacy of this picture of contemporary India is to be found in the (priceless) recommendations by three eminent writers and scholars which adorn the book’s covers:

Professor Amartya Sen
“One of the finest analyses of contemporary India. This is an engrossing and acutely observed appreciation of a country that is at once old and new – an enormously readable book in which everyone, at home in India or abroad, will find something distinctive, and altogether challenging.”

William Dalrymple
“A memorable debut, full of insights and diversion.”

Edward Luce
“Savvy and often moving, India Calling is for those who prefer the view from the ground than from thirty thousand feet.”

A must for Indiaphiles and for the growing number of India watchers.

2.
Patrick French, India: a Portrait, Allen Lane, 2010. ISBN 9781846142147
[Due for publication by Random House later in 2011]

Patrick French’s writing career has already produced several important books, on the explorer Francis Younghusband (1994), India’s Independence (1997), Tibet (2003) and V.S. Naipaul (2008). The first two of these were awarded prizes and also attracted some polemical attention.

French’s latest work, based on extensive research and recent travels aims to portray the everyday contradictions found in India and to offer background to explain why India is as it is today. As proof of the author’s reputation, many reviews have already been published, among them David Gilmour’s (‘All these Indias’) in The Spectator (19 January 2011) and an anonymous review in The Economist (22 January 2011), ‘A colourful depiction of momentous times in a giant country’, in which the reviewer, although positive about the new book, makes the following criticism: “While presenting few new ideas, Mr French has a sometimes surprising tendency to lay claim to established ones. That Western power will be diminished in relative terms by Asia’s rise, that Indian politics is becoming ever more dynastic and that the country’s Hindu nationalists need to freshen up on their manifesto are all commonplace. Mr French suggests them as insights.”

Although this point needs examining, novelist Aravind Adiga’s review in The Observer (16 January 2011) seems altogether over the top and will not prevent me from buying a copy of French’s interesting-looking book.

“To write well about India, however, one needs more than just affection; and what is missing in this book is evidence, so present in A Million Mutinies Now [by V.S.Naipaul], of a struggle to understand India and one’s own place in it. French never gets much beyond the glib assertion in his preface that the new, cool India is the “world’s default setting for the future” …”

Adiga’s radiator then boils over:
“And this is the main problem with the book: if there is some crisp writing in it, there is not a scintilla of original thinking. VS Naipaul managed to combine a love of Indians with a healthy contempt for the nation’s mostly mediocre intelligentsia; this is something French fails to do. Everything in here is a rehash of the vapid, vaguely liberal orthodoxy that dominates so much of academia in India.”

Why not give Patrick French the benefit of the doubt and visit his website?

Or listen to his 2-minute introduction to his book here.

Contemporary India. 1a. Basic Sources of Information. Catherine Taylor’s Possible Sequel to Sarah Macdonald’s Interpretation of India

29 November 2010

I had never heard of Catherine Taylor until I read the article which I reproduce below (from The Australian, Weekend Magazine, 9 October 2010, at the height of the Commonwealth Games media coverage). Seasoned India watchers will detect the usual strong indications of a successful and balanced interpretation of India by an “expat” (non-Indian) English speaker:
– prolonged residence in India
– journalistic and writing instincts and ambitions
– keen observation and sensitive reactions
– deep understanding and appreciation in the face of gross “provocation”.

If my intuition is correct, we should therefore be seeing the publication of another interesting book on India by this resident visitor in the not too distant future. Here, with due acknowledgement to Ms Taylor (and in anticipation of more of her Indian observations), is the full telltale article which prompts this prediction:
Mad for Mumbai (The Australian, 9 October, 2010).

“Living in India is like having an intense but insane affair, writes expat Catherine Taylor.”

“TONIGHT, as I waved my high heel in the face of a bewildered taxi driver, I thought suddenly: I am absolutely nuts in India. It’s a thought I have often. Someone or something is always going nuts, and quite often it’s me.

“I was trying to get a taxi driver to take me home, a mere 500 metres away, but it was pouring with rain and my shoes were oh-so-high, and it was late. He, of course, was having none of it; no amount of shoe-waving and sad-facing from a wild-haired firangi was changing his mind, when suddenly I remembered the magic trick – pay more than you should. “Arre, bhai sahab, 50 rupees to Altamount Road? Please?” And off we went.

“I have lived in Mumbai for almost three years. It was my choice to come – I wanted offshore experience in my media career and India was the only country looking to hire – and I wanted a change. I needed something new, exciting, thrilling, terrifying. And India gave that to me in spades. In fact, she turned it all the way up to 11. And then she turned it up a little more.

“To outsiders, living in India has a particular kind of glamour attached to it, a special sparkle that sees people crowding around me at parties. “You live in India? My God, really? I could never do that. What’s it like?” The closest I have come to answering that question is that it’s like being in a very intense, extremely dysfunctional relationship. India and I fight, we scream, we argue, we don’t speak for days on end, but really, deep down, we love each other. She’s a strange beast, this India. She hugs me, so tightly sometimes that I can’t breathe, then she turns and punches me hard in the face, leaving me stunned. Then she hugs me again, and suddenly I know everything will be all right.

“She wonders why I don’t just “know” how things are done, why I argue with her about everything, why I judge, why I rail at injustice and then do nothing about it. She wonders how old I am, how much I earn, why I’m not married. (The poor census man looked at me, stunned, then asked in a faltering voice, “But madam, if you’re not married then… who is the head of your household?”) I wonder how she can stand by when small children are begging on corners, how she can let people foul up the streets so much that they are impossible to walk along, how she can allow such corruption, such injustice, such A LOT OF HONKING.

“But she has taught me things. She has taught me to be brave, bold, independent, sometimes even fierce and terrifying. She has taught me to walk in another man’s chappals, and ask questions a different way when at first the answer is no. She has taught me to accept the things I cannot change. She has taught me that there are always, always, two sides to every argument. And she was kind enough to let me come and stay.

“She didn’t make it easy though (but then, why should she?). The Foreigner Regional Registration Office, banks, mobile phone companies and rental agencies are drowning under piles of carbon paper, photocopies of passports (I always carry a minimum of three) and the soggy tissues of foreigners who fall to pieces in the face of maddening bureaucracy. What costs you 50 rupees one day might be 500 rupees the next, and nobody will tell you why. What you didn’t need to bring yesterday, you suddenly need to bring today. Your signature doesn’t look like your signature. And no, we can’t help you. Come back tomorrow and see.

“It’s not easy being here, although I am spoiled by a maid who cooks for me, and a delivery service from everywhere that ensures I rarely have to wave my shoes at taxi drivers. I buy cheap flowers, trawl for gorgeous antiques, buy incredibly cheap books; I have long, boozy brunches in five-star hotels for the price of a nice bottle of wine at home, I have a very nice roof over my head … on the face of it, it would seem I have little to complain about. But then, I am stared at constantly, I have been spat on, sexually harassed, had my (covered) breasts videotaped as I walked through a market, had my drink spiked, been followed countless times. I have wept more here than I have ever in my life, out of frustration, anger, loneliness, the sheer hugeness of being here. But the longer I stay, the more I seem to relax, let go, let it be.

“But I do often wonder why I’m here, especially when I’m tired, teary and homesick, my phone has been disconnected for the 19th time despite promises it would never happen again, when it’s raining and no taxis will take me home. But then a willing ride always comes along, and we’ll turn a corner and be suddenly in the midst of some banging, crashing mad festival full of colour, where everyone is dancing behind a slow-moving truck, and I won’t have a clue what’s going on but a mum holding a child will dance up to my window and point and smile and laugh, and I breathe out and think, really, my God, this is fantastic. This is India! I live in India! She hugs me, she punches me, and she hugs me again.

“Yet I know won’t ever belong here, not properly. I know this when I listen to girls discussing what colour blouses they should wear to their weddings – she’s Gujarati, he’s from the south, she’s wearing a Keralan sari. I know when my friends give me house-hunting advice: “Look at the names of the people who already live there, then you’ll know what kind of building it is.” (Trouble is, I don’t know my Kapoors from my Kapurs, my Sippys from my Sindhis, my Khans from my Jains). I know this when my lovely fruit man (who also delivers) begs me to taste a strawberry he is holding in his grubby hands and I have to say no, I can’t eat it, I’ll die… I know I will never belong because, as stupid as it sounds, being truly, properly Indian is in your DNA. I marvel at how incredibly well educated so many of them are, how they can all speak at least three languages and think it’s no big deal, how they fit 1000 people into a train carriage meant for 300 and all stand together quite peacefully, how they know the songs from every Hindi film ever made, how they welcome anyone and everyone (even wild-haired, complaining firangis) into their homes for food, and chai, and more food.

“I’ve seen terrible things – someone fall under a train, children with sliced-off ears, old, old men sitting in the rain nursing half-limbs while they beg, children covered in flies sleeping on the pavement, beggars with no legs weaving themselves through traffic on trolleys, men in lunghis working with their hands in tiny corridors with no fans in sky-high temperatures. I’ve read heartbreaking things, of gang rapes, corruption, environmental abuse. I’ve smelled smells that have stripped the inside of my nostrils, stepped over open sewers in markets, watched a goat being bled to death.

“I’ve done things of which I am ashamed, things I never thought I would do. I have slapped a starving child away, I have turned my head in annoyance when beggars have tapped repeatedly on my taxi window, I have yelled at grown men in the face. I have been pinched and pinched back, with force. I have slapped, I have hit, I have pushed. I have screamed in anger. I have, at times, not recognised myself.

“I’ve yelled at a man for kicking a dog, and yelled at a woman who pushed into a line ahead of me when I wasn’t at all in a hurry. When a teenage beggar stood at the window of my taxi, saying “F… you madam” over and over, I told him to go f… himself and gave him the finger; once on the train I let a kid keep 100 rupees as change. I am kind and I am cold-hearted, I am fair and I am mean, I am delightful and I am downright rude. I am all of these at once and I distress myself wildly over it, but somehow, India accepts me. She has no time for navel-gazing foreigners; she just shoved everyone along a bit and made room for me. She has no time to dwell on my shortcomings, she just keeps moving along.

“And then, and then. I’ve been to temples where I’ve sung along with old women who had no teeth, I’ve held countless smiling ink-marked babies for photos, I’ve had unknown aunties in saris smile and cup my face with their soft, wrinkled hands, I’ve made street vendors laugh when I’ve choked on their spicy food, I’ve danced through the streets at Ganpati, fervently sung the national anthem (phonetically) in cinemas, had designers make me dresses, I’ve met with CEOs and heads of companies just because I asked if I could. She hugs, she punches, she hugs again.

“In short, I have been among the luckiest of the lucky. She keeps me on my toes, Ms India, and I have been blessed that she let me stay for a while. She wanted me to succeed here and she gave me grand opportunities and endless second chances. She willed me forward like a stern parent. She welcomed me. And when I leave, because I know I will one day, I will weep, because I will miss her terribly. And because I know she won’t even notice that I am gone.”

Given the language barrier and other political factors, it may be a very long time before we get such intimate and revealing pictures of life in China as those of Ms Taylor and the other writers referred to in my previous Indian blog.
Which may be a useful thought to mull over.

Contemporary India. 1. Basic Sources of Information

28 November 2010

Part 1
Basic Cultural Introductions for Foreigners (and NRIs)

Those about to visit India for the first time or who are thinking of relocating there for work purposes with an Indian or foreign company naturally turn to the Internet to get basic information. Everything is there, scattered over many websites, but as a preliminary orientation, I would recommend one webpage, assembled by an Indian-based provider of content writing and design services, http://www.chilibreeze.com. On this page (URL below), “Chillibreeze.com” offers 39 introductory articles for both foreigners and returning NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) and POIs (i.e. other persons of Indian origin).

To further facilitate research, I have regrouped the articles below. To consult them, go to the relevant page of the Chillibreeze site and, checking them against a copy of this revised list, select the titles you wish to read. (I have separately listed the articles for NRIs and POIs which are in the Chillibreeze list on this web page and which also contain useful information about contemporary India, especially about changes in living conditions due to the prolonged economic boom of recent years.)

For Expatriates (Expats):
Group 1: Parts of the “India Survival Kit” Series posted in May 2008
The India Survival Kit – an Introduction. (This gives a full list of the 5 sections and articles offered.)

The articles:
Communication in India: It is different!
Ten Tips to Survive Indian Culture
How Indian Society functions: A few cultural tips
Indians Cannot Say ‘No’!
Indian Family Values: What you must know before you visit India
Indian English Quiz: How well do you know India?
What is Indian English? A Whole New Language!
Exotic India: Landscape, Celebrations, Temples, and Art Forms
Cultural tips for visitors to India: Food and Restaurant Etiquette in India
The Diary of an American visiting India – Part 1 / Part 2
The Role of Culture in Business Relationships with Indians – A Case Study

Group 2: Other articles mainly for Expatriates

Expatriates and NRIs in India – Experiences and Perceptions – May 2010 –
NRI tips to Expats Living in India – May 2005 –
Repositioning Delhi: A guide for expats and Indians – Aug 2008 –
Ten Tips from an Expat – May 2007 –
A look at the experiences of American in India – January 2006 –
An American’s Perspective of Life in India – May 2005 –
The Road Less Travelled:The Challenges – May 2005 –
Independence Day – Sept 2008 –
Meet Bob: An American Expat Living in Bangalore – May 2005 –
Must Have Book List for Bangalore Expats – Oct 2004 –
Expat Mom Gives Description of Life in Bangalore – Sept 2004 –
Long-Distance relationships – Jan 2009 –
Will your baby be born in India? – Oct 2007 –
Other Articles – mainly for NRIs and POIs
The Resident Non-resident – May 2010
Musings of an RNRI – Sept 2006
Returning to India: But which one? – Oct 2008
Moving to India? Five Things No One Will Ever Tell You – Jan 2010
India’s Work Culture- Some Tips for Returning Indians and Foreigners – May 2008
Notes from an Itinerant PIO on Freedom – May 2005
Why NRI’s Want Their Children to Grow up in India – May 2005
Top Ten Techie Favorite Areas in Bangalore – Oct 2008
A guide to relocating to Nagpur – Oct 2008
Is real estate in Bangalore booming? Let’s look at some trends – May 2008
Choosing the right school board for your child – Nov 2008
Tips for NRI parents living in India – August 2006
Surviving Summers in the Gulf – July 2010
Shopping at an Indian store in the US – Oct 2008.

Part 2

Basic Books by English-Speaking Visitors to India

The following is a brief reading list for those interested in benefitting from the (relatively) recent research and travels of English-speaking visitors to or residents of India.

Luce, Edward, In Spite of the Gods (The Strange Rise of Modern India), London, Little, Brown, 2006. (Abacus paperback edition, 2007. Also: New York, Doubleday, 2006.)

Interviews and observations of India by the Financial Times’s correspondent from 2001 to 2005 during which time he learned Hindi and married an Indian wife. Highly recommended by Mark Tully, Professor Amartya Singh, William Dalrymple and ex-President Kalam, among others. A real mine of insight and information, with analyses of the changing caste system, the status of India’s Muslims and the rise of Hindu nationalism.
See William Grimes’s Review: ‘The Power and the Potential of India’s Economic Change’.

Sample: “Much of the book consists of interviews and colorful vignettes intended to illustrate the myriad statistics that, out of context, can numb the mind. The blend of anecdote, history and economic analysis makes In Spite of the Gods an endlessly fascinating, highly pleasurable way to catch up on a very big story.”

Kremmer, Christopher, Inhaling the Mahatma, HarperCollins, 2006.

An account of various aspects of contemporary Indian history and life based on seven years of travels and residence in India between 1990 and 2001 by a journalist and writer who took the trouble to learn Hindi and established very close contacts with influential Indians.
A recent REVIEW by Richard A. Johnson.

Macdonald, Sarah, Holy Cow. An Indian Adventure, Sydney/London, Bantam Books, 2002.

An Australian journalist’s entertaining and informative account of contemporary life in India.
(A suitable bestseller for air travel.)

Tully, Sir Mark
The doyen of British correspondents in India over the past 40 years, renowned in the UK and in India. His work in presenting India to the overseas English-speaking world has been recognised by awards from Queen Elizabeth II and the Indian Government. A later blog will deal with his lifelong work in more detail. For this basic orientation list the following two works are recommended.
No Full Stops in India, London, Penguin, 1992.
The Heart of India, London, Penguin, 1996.

Aitken, Bill
Like fellow Indiaphile and septuagenarian Mark Tully, Bill Aitken has spent several decades of his life living and interacting with Indians and writing about them and about India. Like Tully, he is well known in India, where he has lived as a naturalised Indian citizen for nearly fifty years.

Aitken’s special interests are spirituality, travel, climbing, the Himalayas, and Steam Railways.
The Penguin Introduction to two of his works reveals that “He has lived in Himalayan ashrams, worked as secretary to a Maharani, freelanced under his middle name (Liam McKay) and undertaken miscellaneous excursions – from Nanda Devi to Sabarimala – on an old motor bike and by vintage steam railway.”

For this basic list on “India for foreigners”, I include three samplers of Aitken’s specialised oeuvre. More comment and analysis will follow in a later blog.

Footloose in the Himalaya, Delhi, Permanent Black, 2003.
Of the three mountaineering travel books by Aitken that I have read, this latest one is the best, full of fascinating detail, observations and adventure.
The Nanda Devi Affair, Penguin Books India, 1994.
Aitken’s very special spiritual climbing quest.
Branch Line to Eternity, Penguin Books India, New Delhi, 2001.
His travels on the last steam engines operating in India.

Dom Moraes and Sarayu Srivatsa, Out of God’s Oven. Travels in A Fractured Land, New Delhi, Viking, 2002.

An investigative book by two Non-Resident Indians, based on six years of travel and interviews on contemporary Indian issues.
(For an Asia Times Online review by Jason Overdorf in March 2003, see here.

Overdorf comments: “In a book of remarkable scope, the two writers address many of the seminal events of Indian history of the past three decades, ranging from riots by Dalits (formerly untouchables) …”

Dalrymple, William
Dalrymple has gained considerable acclamation and fame from his many scholarly works on India and Indian history. His latest book on spirituality in India has become a best seller in the English-speaking world (like most of the books on this list):
Nine Lives. In Search of the Sacred in Modern India, London, Bloomsbury, 2009.

These nine exotic interviews on very diverse aspects of religion were prompted by Dalrymple’s desire to investigate the present state of religious beliefs in India following a period of great economic and social change.

Fishlock, Trevor, India File, 2nd edition, New Delhi, Rupa, 1987.

Another of the distinguished list of British correspondents in India, Fishlock first published this slim volume in 1983. His first chapter, ‘Inheritance’ (pp. 1-19) is still well worth reading.
*
NOTE: Further blogs on printed and online information about contemporary India are planned.

Background Reading on Contemporary India

7 October 2010

The purely economic pluses and minuses of staging the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi will become apparent long after the Games are finished, as is the case with many of these ambitious international sporting events. Much more immediate will be the effect on overseas opinion of the publicity generated by the intense media coverage of the Games over these 13 days. A more personal form of publicity which will be spread around many countries is that of the thousands of visiting athletes and spectators. It is therefore to be hoped that a wider interest in travel to India, with her varied exotic offerings, will be a positive result of the 2010 Games, eclipsing the effects of the unfortunate (but unavoidable) negative publicity and nervousness which preceded the Opening Night.

Those eager to acquire a balanced picture of contemporary India may enjoy the following selection of recent books by travellers who have provided us with very detailed accounts and analyses (warts and all), based on lengthy periods of residence and observation.

Edward Luce, In Spite of the Gods (The Strange Rise of Modern India), London, Little, Brown, 2006. (Also: New York, Doubleday, 2006.)
Interviews and observations of India by the Financial Times’s correspondent from 2001 to 2005, during which time he learned Hindi and married an Indian wife. Highly recommended by Mark Tully, Professor Amartya Sen, and William Dalrymple, among other cognoscenti, Luce offers a wealth of insight and information, and includes analyses of the changing caste system, the status of India’s Muslims and the rise of Hindu nationalism.
See William Grimes’s Review: ‘The Power and the Potential of India’s Economic Change’.
Sample: “Much of the book consists of interviews and colorful vignettes intended to illustrate the myriad statistics that, out of context, can numb the mind. The blend of anecdote, history and economic analysis makes In Spite of the Gods an endlessly fascinating, highly pleasurable way to catch up on a very big story.”

Christopher Kremmer, Inhaling the Mahatma, HarperCollins, 2006.
An account of various aspects of contemporary Indian history and life based on seven years of travels and residence in India between 1990 and 2001 by a journalist and writer who took the trouble to learn Hindi and established very close contacts with influential Indians. Like Edward Luce, Kremmer married an Indian woman.
A recent REVIEW by Richard A. Johnson.

Sarah Macdonald, Holy Cow. An Indian Adventure, Sydney/London, Bantam Books, 2002.
An Australian journalist’s entertaining and informative account of contemporary life in India.
(A suitable bestseller for air travel.)

Sir Mark Tully
The doyen of British correspondents in India over the past 40 years, renowned in the UK and in India. His work in presenting India to the overseas English-speaking world has been recognised by awards from Queen Elizabeth II and the Indian Government. For this basic orientation list the following two works are recommended.
No Full Stops in India, London, Penguin, 1992.
The Heart of India, London, Penguin, 1996.

Bill Aitken
Like fellow Indiaphile and septuagenarian Mark Tully, Bill Aitken has spent several decades of his life living and interacting with Indians and writing about them and about India. Like Tully, he is well known in India, where he has lived as a naturalised Indian citizen for nearly fifty years.

Aitken’s special interests are spirituality, travel, climbing, the Himalayas, and Steam Railways.
The Penguin Introduction to two of his works reveals that “He has lived in Himalayan ashrams, worked as secretary to a Maharani, freelanced under his middle name (Liam McKay) and undertaken miscellaneous excursions – from Nanda Devi to Sabarimala – on an old motor bike and by vintage steam railway.”
For this basic list on “India for foreigners”, I recommend three samplers of Aitken’s specialised oeuvre.
Footloose in the Himalaya, Delhi, Permanent Black, 2003.
Of the three mountaineering travel books by Aitken that I have read, this latest one is the best, full of fascinating detail, observations and adventure.

The Nanda Devi Affair, Penguin Books India, 1994.
Aitken’s very special spiritual climbing quest.
Branch Line to Eternity, Penguin Books India, New Delhi, 2001.
His travels on the last railway steam engines operating in India.

Dom Moraes and Sarayu Srivatsa, Out of God’s Oven. Travels in A Fractured Land, New Delhi, Viking, 2002.
An investigative book by two Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), based on six years of travel and interviews on contemporary Indian issues.
(For an Asia Times Online review by Jason Overdorf in March 2003, see here.

Overdorf comments: “In a book of remarkable scope, the two writers address many of the seminal events of Indian history of the past three decades, ranging from riots by Dalits (formerly untouchables) …”

William Dalrymple
Dalrymple has harvested considerable acclamation and fame from his many scholarly works on India and Indian history. His latest book on spirituality in India has become a best seller (like most of the books on this list):
Nine Lives. In Search of the Sacred in Modern India, London, Bloomsbury, 2009.
These nine exotic interviews on very diverse aspects of religion were prompted by Dalrymple’s desire to investigate the present state of religious beliefs in India following a period of great economic and social change.

Trevor Fishlock, India File, 2nd edition, New Delhi, Rupa, 1987.
One of a distinguished line of British correspondents in India, Fishlock first published this slim volume in 1983. His first chapter, ‘Inheritance’ (pp. 1-19) is still well worth reading.